School Bus Driver Risk Management

What is Fleet Driver Risk Management?

Let us begin with a basic definition of what we mean by "Driver Risk" as it relates to Driver Risk Management within the transportation industry;  Driver risk is those factors that could adversely influence or hinder the safe operation and efficient transportation services performed by the driver for their company.  Some aspects are intrinsic to the transport process permitting little marginal gains in those areas. For example, should a driver fail to stop at a red light and strike your driver's vehicle, little could have been done as that was not in any way a failure of your driver?

Other aspects, however, are the direct result of driving behaviors or choices made by the driver of the vehicle, and these are targeted to provide substantial gains in a reduction in risk that can affect many other driver-related activities. 

Far too often, I turn on the TV; I see news reports of undisciplined, unprofessional drivers causing accidents while sending text messages on their cell phones or Blackberries when they should be concentrating on driving their vehicles. This form of Driver Risk is a direct result of dangerous driver behavior and poor choices, both of which in many cases are 100% preventable if the driver learns to recognize the dangers and agrees not to do these distracting things while driving company vehicles. 

Why Must We Manage Fleet Driver Risk?

Unmanaged Fleet Driver Risk can cause massive losses with unnecessary liability in an otherwise healthy and thriving company. Excessive or unmanaged Fleet Driver Risk can have damaging effects in the following areas:

Driver Personal Safety
Public Image
Logo or Company Name
Company Asset Loss
Accidental Property Damage
Unauthorized Use of Company Assets
Insurance Costs
Waste of Company Fuel
Personal Injury or Death
Liability Perishables & Timely Deliveries

The reason the effects or influences on the driver are important and must be managed is due in part to the fact they can all affect the driver's ability to perform their primary objective of safe and efficient transport service for the company employing them. Adverse influences though they may be singularly minor, can often combine and compound to form a more formidable obstacle to the driver when problems arise. Training and driver education is an excellent start to teaching them policy, procedure, situational awareness, and how to handle any unforeseen circumstances others may have experienced at one time.

Introduction To Driver Risk Management
There is a plethora of professionals permeating the transportation markets, offering a cornucopia of techniques and programs designed to reduce the problems associated with Fleet Driver Risk Management. As a fellow traveler on the highways of this land of the free and home of the brave, I value and appreciate their considerable efforts and goals to make it safer to coexist on the roads, knowing those driving commercial heavy-duty trucks alongside my Xterra are professional drivers and no threat to others sharing the roads. I do not doubt that in many cases, the high fees they charge and the time they invest in enhancing driver education and the procedure are in demand due to the fact, so many fleets are paying so much money for their services. I respect any person willing to work to earn a living that those of us who do work and pay high taxes do not need to support. 

A Brief listing of some of their efforts in programs or concerns includes the following:

Fleet Driver Risk Assessment Tutorials
Fleet Driver Risk Profiling
Fleet Driver Awareness Programs
Cognitive ReasoningThreat Identification
Occupational Road Risk Courses
Fleet Driver Background Checks
Hazard Perception Workshop
Advanced Driver Theory
DMV Alert NotificationVirtual Drive Simulated Training
Fleet Driver Impairment Training
Defensive Driving Theory
Understanding Accident Avoidance
Safe Driver Theory Workshop
Driver Posture Enhancement

While I have no doubts that all of the above programs can have a positive impact on driver safety and thus lower driver risk in the long term, I believe these programs may suffer systemic problems based on their implementation due in large part to the fact they are all passive. For example, most programs involve varying degrees of the following:

Classroom or PC Based Teaching Seminars
Instruction in Simulation
Instruction in Personal Drive Training Professional Profiling Review
Advanced Classroom or PC Teaching
Specialty Concern Intensive Training

While the programs and training methods may be well developed, thought out, and taught at a high level, as are most education programs, it is assumed in large part that those being taught these programs have an interest in learning these new ways to become safe and fuel conservative, and this is where I believe a huge false assumption is being made.

Permit me to preface the following with a brief disclaimer:
While I believe most fleet drivers are professionals, take their job and driving very seriously, they are not perfect, and normal Fleet Driver Training programs will help them to become better at what they do. 

Having said that, there is a small percentage of lazy, apathetic, disgruntled, or angry drivers in the fleet markets that amount to much of the conscious chaos, problems related to driver safety, loss prevention, accidents, and this small percentage of problem drivers is what the following addresses.

A Few Bad Apples In The Fleet
Since my introduction to driver  Fleet Management Systems in the early 1980s, the single most notable realization I have made is that drivers can be the most expensive and hard to regulate variable in the Fleet Management industry, and unfortunately, they often have the highest liability risk of any employee in the company or district. 

I have seen firsthand the extreme efforts of drivers to undermine their management's best efforts to regulate their vehicle use safely and efficiently. I have heard the hateful comments, slander,  vitriol, and threats made about their supervisors and management; despite the fact they owe their jobs, income, and possibly health benefits to these, they demean and hold in such disdain. The level of animosity and ungratefulness demonstrated by this small percentage of drivers is truly stunning, in light of the fact they would have nothing to fear if they did as they were trained to do and followed company policy. I have seen firsthand the complete disregard some drivers have exhibited for any efforts to get them to follow company driver safety policy and procedure. The "Take this job and shove it" song is often sung by those who might be the reason we are installing systems in the first place. I have been assaulted and threatened dozens of times by those who fear that any attempt by management to know what they are doing when they are in the company vehicle is a clear and present danger to their reputation and continued employment. While I am not a specialist in Psychology, it is my novice opinion they may fear any management oversight because they may be doing something that they do not want to be known, and that would concern me if they were covered under my insurance policy. I have personally had drivers boast to me while we were performing installations of Fleet Management equipment that they already knew how to defeat the systems we were installing. I have seen no less than 100 different ways to tamper, destroy, and defeat mechanical recording systems, and about half as many attempts at defeating the digital systems that replaced them. Hundreds of times, drivers who viewed these devices as a threat told us in no uncertain terms that they did not care what we installed; it was a waste of the company's money as they would just trash it when we left. 

These small percentage of fleet drivers are the ones that, in my opinion, no amount of training will help because training reinforces subconscious decisions and because as soon as they get alone in their company vehicle, all that training is consciously disregarded for whatever reason and they are back to doing things their way. These drivers present a high concentration of the Driver Risk necessary to target, as they may be the biggest threat to fleet safety and may also be the ones exposing the company or district they drive for to excessive liability due to accidents or litigation as they simply are not on the same driver safety/fuel conservation page as the rest of the drivers in the fleet.

We old-timers in the Fleet Management markets had various devices to offer aid in managing driver risk, but again these were too basic and rudimentary to affect any aspect of modern Driver Risk Management, as they were all passive.

Driver Risk Management Devices In The Past

There have been at least four decades of devices aimed at basic levels of driver management in the company-owned vehicles they operate. Some attempts have been workable for their limited applications and limited data collection, while others tell more about accidents and their immediate cause or aftermath, much like a flight recorder for a plane. The main design they all share is they are passive in operation and simply record what the vehicle does and not what may be affecting the driver of that vehicle. The brief history of the driver management systems is listed below, broken down into the technologies that were used to monitor vehicle/driver performance.

"Shakers" have been used for 40 years to log and document driver drive and stop times while they are on the road. Starting with the chart loggers like the first Service Recorders (shakers) that monitored time driving and time not driving, these systems performed basic chart time clock functions. Most had simply weighted shakers with stylii scratching round paper disks scratching motion marks corresponding to the time on the clock turned chart. Very simple, very reliable, and durable, some are still in use today.

"Tachographs" have been used for 30 years to log, document, and track driver activities and duties while they are on the road. The technology soon stepped up from the basic shakers to the ability to monitor speed and RPMs with the Sangamo/Abbott series of recorders. Then it was the German invasion of the Kienzle product in the USA, they added precision-engineered mechanical recorders capable of recording three events, speed, distance, and RPM, all extremely accurate although a bit high in cost.

Black Boxes
Once the digital age dawned on the fleet management market, it was the turn of the transistor to rule this dominion with digital reliability and software that permitted the integration so fleet reporting and cross fleet databases. These devices now offer active vehicle tracking, 2-way messaging, and voice and data downloading that can often be integrated with 3rd party software to perform inventory, purchasing, and invoicing functions. These devices were often called "Boss in a box," "Tattletale," "Drivers Leash," "Onboard Boss," and "Management in a can"  as they provided some degree of management oversight in the often unmanageable transportation industry.

Mobile Video Cameras
"Mobile Video Cameras" record everything that goes on in the passenger compartment of a vehicle. The best examples are school bus video systems that record what the children do on the bus. These systems have a few driver risk management aspects built in as they document when the stop arm is out when the vehicle is braking and some record vehicle speed with GPS options. They usually have 1 or 2 cameras, a small DVR, and some may offer optional GPS for speed and mapping; most have audio. These are simple devices used to limit liability and modify the behavior of the children that ride the buses.

Second to school buses are the taxi cabs running these videos on them for a similar reason. Of all the job occupations, the one with the highest incidence of assault and murder is taxi driving. These systems have a few driver risk management aspects built-in as they document the driver in some cases when the vehicle is braking and some record vehicle speed with GPS options. They usually have 1 or 2 cameras, and a small DVR; some may offer optional GPS for speed and mapping, and most have audio. These are simple devices used to limit liability and modify the behavior of the people that ride in the taxi.

Accident Cameras
"Accident Cameras" record the last few seconds before an accident a few seconds after the accident. They are small, and some are very inexpensive, although some can exceed the $1,200.00 range. They usually have 1 or 2 cameras, a small DVR incorporating "G" sensors to trigger the accident event, some may incorporate GPS for speed and mapping, some even have audio so you can hear what happened a few seconds before and after the accident. It is understood these are simply there to show what happened during the accident and offer some level of accident analysis after the fact.

Driver Risk Management Solutions In The Present 

Active Mobile Video

Active Mobile Video systems (AMV), a new innovative integration of technologies adapted to benefit those companies, districts, and municipalities operating large fleets of vehicles. An Active Mobile Video system is an active and verifiable mechanism that can actively encourage borderline drivers to be much safer, less wasteful of the fuel they could be saving, more conscious of their driving behaviors, and a long-term asset to their company district, or municipality. With the support and oversight of management, most drivers who exhibit dangerous or apathetic driving behaviors can be polished by sufficient education and AMV reminders to the best interest of safe driving with fuel conservation in mind.

Active Driver Training Devices are currently available that have:
The ability to detect Cell Phone Texting by drivers of fleet vehicles.The ability to immediately notify CMS Operator or Dispatch the driver is Driving While Texting. The ability to send screenshots & video clips of the incident to Supervisors via PDA, Blackberry & cell phone. The ability to help prevent 5,500 deaths per year and 300,000+ injuries due to Driving While texting. The ability to help insure and enforce Federal mandate compliance for Driving While Texting restrictions for commercial fleet drivers. The ability of management to remind the driver to drive safely. The ability to remind the driver his company wants him to conserve fuel and save the company money. The ability to remind the driver his company wants him to conserve fuel to reduce air pollution. The ability of management to remind the driver not to run over speed bumps at high speed damaging the vehicle and cargo. The ability of management to remind the driver not to run over curbs at high speed damaging the tires. The ability of management to remind the drivers not to exceed the maximum speed limits. The ability of management to remind the driver not to take turns so fast the vehicle may lose control or roll over.

Insurance Incentive to Reduce Liability Risk
There are insurance companies who have just started a test program offering incentives to their insured fleet owners amounting to 25% off of that vehicle's current annual premium when the Fleet Driver Risk Management devices are purchased and used by those fleets. The caveat for this large premium discount for that year of the purchase is that the insurance provider is provided video files for each accident claim made by that company.

Fleet owners get a device that can help them:
Save up to 25% in wasted fuel, Document dangerous driving behavior that often leads to accidents, Offer drivers active driver alerts when they drive dangerously, and Get a reduction of up to 25% from their insurance provider to cover that first-year purchase.

Insurance providers get access to documented video evidence: to use in court in defending their insured fleets in cases of:

Insurance fraud by drivers, who may be staging accidents to win settlement claims, Document number of occupants involved in an accident in other vehicle Admission of guilt by non-insured parties that may have caused or contributed to the accident (Verbal admissions to your insured drivers are common in the immediate aftermath of an accident). Identify who was actually in the vehicle when it was involved in an accident. (Verify that the persons appearing in court are the same persons named in the police report)
Verify the impact “G” force of the accident in minor bumps that are later greatly exaggerated.

This will be the start of active Driver Training Devices that will enable management to actively remind drivers of company policy, enforce violations and provide digital video/audio/GPS/G Sensor data to back it up. The future of Driver Risk Management Solutions just got brighter.

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